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Act and Terminal 3 at the Print Room at the Coronet | Review

Act - Terminal 3 - Coronet Print Room
Act – Terminal 3 – Coronet Print Room

The bar at the Coronet in Notting Hill is on a tilt. Act and Terminal 3 is equally unbalanced. But in a good way.

Both short plays are written by the relatively unknown (in Britain, at least) Lars Noren, and address perhaps typically Scandinavian existentialist ‘what the hell’s going on?’ kind of questions. At least that’s what I think…?

Act opens in a near future, dystopian Trump era America, the set filled with stacks of toilet rolls and coca-cola cans. A man watches tv and a woman stands awkwardly in hospital robes. Bright electric lights flood the space with cool dejection.

The dialogue is short and seems to run back and forwards and around in circles. It’s never clear who’s in charge, who’s dictating the conversation, even who the people actually are. The effect of this is parts mysterious and exciting and parts boring, as we are unable to engage.

The essential narrative, if there is one, seems to follow a scientist interrogating a criminal about her motivation. There are suggestions that the woman committed a crime, but also it seems that the scientist is romantically or emotionally invested in her. But the dialogue ranges from an increasing sexual tension to family and hopes and dreams and childhood and memory. There was a very strong sense of ‘everything and nothing all at once’. Never a dull moment, nor a comfortable one; Act is fast, tense and a little bit difficult to understand.

Act - Terminal 3 - Coronet Print Room
Act – Terminal 3 – Coronet Print Room

Terminal 3 holds together much more coherently, following two analogous narratives addressing more approachable questions about future, self and children. Two sets of parents meet and wait at different locations, one pair to identify a dead boy, the other to give birth to a child. Both wait for a terrifying moment which will shape their futures and be shaped by their pasts.

Perhaps Loren is playing on the dual meaning of ‘terminal’ as a place to wait in and also an ‘end’. For both parents, the event they are waiting for is at once and finality and a beginning. Here, the dialogue fits together much more naturally and comfortably. The young pregnant couple exude resentment and bitterness, contrasting with the old-time tenderness shown by the divorced older couple. This is a stronger production as the separated scenes mirror and reflect each other despite their dissimilarity.

The coupling of Act and Terminal 3 is a good decision; where Act trades in ambiguity and confusion, Terminal 3 has clarity and structure, complementing each other very neatly. Although ‘Act’ perhaps hung together too loosely to stand alone, together this is a strong production asking really interesting questions about the role of the present and the future in the timeline of the individual.

4 stars

Review by Thomas Froy

A double-bill of hard-hitting and deceptively simple short plays from Swedish master-playwright Lars Norén, directed by Anthony Neilson.

Reimagined in a near future USA in the aftermath of a second civil war, Act is a prescient interrogation of faith, conscience and atrocity and what is excusable during war. In a hospital examination room, a doctor assesses a female prisoner, accused of being a terrorist and now on hunger strike.

Then, storylines intertwine in Terminal 3. A young couple await the birth of their first child, while in the same place two people wait to identify the body of their dead son. What truths emerge from the birth – and death – of a child? How does the birth – and death – of a child affect the lives and relationships of the parents?

Anthony Neilson is one of the most extraordinary – and controversial – dramatists working today. His previous work, including The Prudes, Narrative, Unreachable and Relocated at the Royal Court Theatre, The Wonderful World of Dissocia and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Royal Lyceum Edinburgh and Realism at the Edinburgh International Festival.

The cast is Barnaby Power, Robert Stocks, Temi Wilkey and Hannah Young.
Design is by Laura Hopkins, with lighting by Chahine Yavroyan.
A Print Room at the Coronet production

ACT and TERMINAL 3
by Lars Norén
Translated from the Swedish by Marita Lindholm Gochman
Directed by Anthony Neilson
1 – 30 June 2018
Press Night: Tue 5 June at 7pm

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